HC231H - Music and Politics (Spring/2024)

Professor: Anita Chari

4.00 credits

  • CRN 32029: Monday & Wednesday, 8:30-9:50am @ CHA 201

How does music relate to politics and power in social movements, subcultures, and the marketplace? This course will explore the relationship of music to politics, primarily in the US context. We will read about, write about, and listen to music from across genres and political moments including labor and civil rights songs, blues, R&B, hip hop, and pop, and we will look at the political contexts in which these forms of music are produced, performed, and consumed.  We will be asking questions about what is political about music of these various musical styles and from diverse historical periods.  We will not focus solely on music produced as an intervention into particular political movements, though we will look at examples of this kind (music from the American civil rights movement, for example). Instead, we look at how music of any and every kind is involved in the production of subjectivity, how changing formats of sound production and technology affect our sensory capacities as social and political subjects, how music structures collectivity, and how the relationship between form and content in music can be analyzed in ways that are useful for social and political critique.  Our interests here are in the “micropolitics” of music. Above all, we will be learning tools for listening to music more deeply, so that we can have a more profound understanding of the ways that music impacts us and moves us, whether that be to action, inaction, political struggle, complacency, or emotion. This course uses concepts from the subfield of Political Theory to interrogate the relationship between music and politics.  Such concepts include: commodity fetishism, consciousness, political universality, class, race, gender, democracy, subjectivity, the polis, and micropolitics. In the process of learning about music and politics, largely in the context of 20th century American politics, you will therefore also be exposed to some of the fundamental concepts used in the subfield of Political Theory.